E Edgar Allan Poe

For Annie by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe dedicated this poem, ‘For Annie’, to his Platonic friend Nancy Locke Heywood with whom he had a strong but complicated relationship. Through this poem, Poe expresses his gratitude for the lady.

In one’s life, there are a few persons who help that person to sail through the difficulties selflessly out of pure love. One cannot forget them ever. They are like the torchbearers who show the right way to a person. In Poe’s case, Nancy L. Heywood was one of them. She helped him to recover from the fitful fever of “Living” and taught him there was still hope. In his deteriorating mental condition, she was the divine “light”. For this reason, he penned down ‘For Annie’ to glorify her role in his life.

For Annie by Edgar Allan Poe

 

Summary

‘For Annie’ by Edgar Allan Poe describes the role of “Annie” or Nancy Heywood in the poet’s life when he was struggling with the fever called “Living”.

This long poem written in the praise of “Annie” presents how the poet felt before his recovery from his mental agony. It was a phase when the poet was like a living dead. If one looked at him they might think him to be a dead person. But when that lady came into his life, he started to recover gradually. For her selfless love and care, he has recovered from that mental ailment. For this reason, Poe expresses his gratitude to his friend, “Annie” to be with him when he needed her the most.

 

Structure

This poem, ‘For Annie’ consists of 15 stanzas. In most of the stanzas, there are 6 lines. Whereas some stanzas contain 8 lines. There is only a single stanza that has 10 lines in it. There is not any specific rhyme scheme in this poem. However, in each stanza, some alternative lines rhyme together. In some instances, the rhyming lines end with the same word. The lines are short and the verbal energy swiftly moves from one line to the other. The poet mostly uses the iambic meter with some anapestic, trochaic, and spondee variations.

 

Literary Devices

There are several literary devices in this poem. The poem begins with a metaphor for the mental agony of the speaker. Thereafter the poet uses a personification in the phrase, “lingering illness”. There is another important metaphor in the first stanza. It is in “Living” and the poet compares it with an illness surprisingly. In the following stanzas, the poet uses several repetitions that help in sustaining the internal rhythm of the poem. In the “sighing and sobbing”, there is alliteration. Apart from that, in the last section of the poem, the poet repeats his friend’s nickname several times for emphasizing her importance in his life. 

 

Analysis, Stanza by Stanza

Stanza One

Thank Heaven! the crisis,

The danger, is past,

And the lingering illness

Is over at last—

And the fever called “Living”

Is conquered at last.

Poe’s poem, ‘For Annie’ begins with the speaker’s thankfulness to “Heaven”. The speaker of the poem or the poet himself is thankful for heaven as the “crisis” of his life is over. The “lingering illness” that has been troubling his life is over at last. It was like a threat to his cheerfulness. Thereafter, the poet uses a metaphor. By using this device, he compares “Living” to the “fever” or ailment of his life. Here, the poet uses irony to depict the condition of his life. However, at the end of the first stanza, the speaker is relaxed as he has conquered that invisible enemy troubling him for such a long time.

 

Stanza Two

Sadly, I know

I am shorn of my strength,

And no muscle I move

As I lie at full length—

But no matter!—I feel

I am better at length.

In the second stanza of the poem, the poet sadly admits the fact that he is shorn of his strength. That mental disease has caused him so much pain. For this reason, he compares its effects on his mind to the cuts caused by a blade. Moreover, the speaker says he cannot move his muscle as he lies at full length. This line reflects how exhausted the poet is. However, at last, he says the pain does not matter to him anymore as he feels better at length.

 

Stanza Three

And I rest so composedly,

Now, in my bed,

That any beholder

Might fancy me dead—

Might start at beholding me,

Thinking me dead.

Moreover, the poet uses irony in this section with a slight texture of humor. Now, he rests in a calm and composed manner in his bed. If anyone looks at him lying on his bed, they might fancy that he is dead. Humorously, he is not dead. He is so relieved that he can sleep soundly. Moreover, to heighten the humorous effect, he says that they might get confused about whether he is sleeping or he is dead.

 

Stanza Four

The moaning and groaning,

The sighing and sobbing,

Are quieted now,

With that horrible throbbing

At heart:—ah, that horrible,

Horrible throbbing!

In the fourth stanza of ‘For Annie’, the poet says the “moaning and groaning” and the “sighing and sobbing” are quiet now. In the past, he moaned and groaned in loneliness. There was no one to comfort him. Hence he had to struggle alone. Thereafter, the poet uses a repetition of the phrase, “horrible throbbing”. It gives readers an idea about the problem of the poet. The mental pain increased his heart rate and resulted in palpitations. For this reason, the poet uses the adjective, “horrible” to intensify the effect of these lines in one’s mind.

 

Stanza Five

The sickness—the nausea—

The pitiless pain—

Have ceased, with the fever

That maddened my brain—

With the fever called “Living”

That burned in my brain.

In this stanza of the poem, the poet talks about the problems he was suffering from. For this sickness, sometimes he felt nauseated. Here, he uses a personification in the “pitiless pain”. This phrase also contains a consonance. Whatsoever, like a merciless person, the fever of his life drove him mad. It was unbearable. According to the poet, “that maddened my brain.” Lastly, the poet uses irony again to refer to his life as a disease. If someone goes through such terrible physical and mental problems, one might think his life to be a disease in itself. Such problems are unforeseeable. It feels as if the pain is burning the brain.

 

Stanza Six

And oh! of all tortures

That torture the worst

Has abated—the terrible

Torture of thirst

For the naphthaline river

Of Passion accurst:—

I have drank of a water

That quenches all thirst:—

Thereafter, in this stanza, Poe talks about the pain that tortures a person from inside. It is the worst form of suffering that one has come across. When the poet was going through that tough phase, he felt as if his body was burning from inside. Here he uses a metaphor in the “napthaline river”. It is a reference to a flammable liquid solvent. Thereafter, the poet refers to the pain of his body that was leading him toward death gradually. However, in the last two lines, the poet implicitly refers to the love of the lady as the water “That quenches all thirst.” Her love helped him to recover from that pain.

 

Stanza Seven

Of a water that flows,

With a lullaby sound,

From a spring but a very few

Feet under ground—

From a cavern not very far

Down under ground.

In the seventh stanza of ‘For Annie’, the poet connects the previous stanza with this one by the use of enjambment. At the beginning of this section, the poet refers to the water that flows with a “lullaby sound.” So it has the ability to lessen one’s pain. It originates from a spring, a few feet underground. The water flows from a cavern not very far from the poet. Here, the poet compares love to the “water”. Poet’s dearest Annie is the source of comfort in his life. Moreover, this section also makes it clear that the lady is always with him even if she is far away from her. She lives in his soul.

 

Stanza Eight

And ah! let it never

Be foolishly said

That my room it is gloomy

And narrow my bed;

For man never slept

In a different bed—

And, to sleep, you must slumber

In just such a bed.

From this section of the poem, the tone and mood change. One can feel positivity inside the poet’s mind from this section. However, in this stanza, the poet says let it never be foolishly said that his room is gloomy. Moreover, his bed is not a narrow one. It seems that the presence of Annie makes his room as well as his mind cheerful. His bed is spacious enough as it can easily hold both of them. Apart from that, he says no man has ever slept on such a bed. It is not the bed, but the person who is lying on it that makes it special. Whatsoever, the poet says one must be willing to slumber in such a bed.

 

Stanza Nine

My tantalized spirit

Here blandly reposes,

Forgetting, or never

Regretting, its roses—

Its old agitations

Of myrtles and roses:

According to the poet, his tantalized spirit reposes on that bed calmly. The use of the word, “tantalized” in the first line of this section, refers to the fact that the poet wants to be together with Annie again but for some unforeseen circumstances, he cannot be together. Moreover, he tries to forget those sweet memories. He is not sure whether he wants to forget those days when Annie was with him, or he is just regretting her absence. Thereafter, the poet refers to the myrtles and roses. Those flowers are symbols of love and compassion. Here, the poet refers to the old days and compares the memories to the flowers.

 

Stanza Ten

For now, while so quietly

Lying, it fancies

A holier odor

About it, of pansies—

A rosemary odor,

Commingled with pansies—

With rue and the beautiful

Puritan pansies.

In this stanza of the poem, ‘For Annie’, the poet presents the images of some flowers to create a monotonous mood. In this section, the poet says while he lies quietly in his room, the “rose” kept in his room emits a “holier odor”. Some pancies are placed beside the rose. They have a “rosemary odor” commingled with that of pansies. It is important to note here that the pansy, a symbol of sadness, juxtaposed with the symbol of love, depicts the poet’s state of mind. As Annie is not with him, he feels sad. At the same time, her love is still with him. Moreover, Poe uses a personal metaphor in “Puritan pansies”.

 

Stanza Eleven

And so it lies happily,

Bathing in many

A dream of the truth

And the beauty of Annie—

Drowned in a bath

Of the tresses of Annie.

The flowers mentioned in the previous stanza, lie happily. It seems that Annie has brought them for him to wish him good health. According to the poet, those flowers are bathing in “a dream of the truth” and “the beauty of Annie.” In this section, the flowers symbolize their truthfulness. They also depict the inner beauty of the poet’s helpmate. In the last two lines, Poe uses hyperbole. According to him, the flowers are drowned with the overflowing love of Annie’s heart. She is so kind that even the traces of her kindness is more than enough for the poet.

 

Stanza Twelve

She tenderly kissed me,

She fondly caressed,

And then I fell gently

To sleep on her breast—

Deeply to sleep

From the heaven of her breast.

In this stanza, the poet thinks about the past when Annie was with him. When he was sick and lonely, she was there beside him. She tenderly kissed him and fondly caressed him in her arms. Then the poet felt gently on her breast and slept there. While he slept on her breast, he felt like he was in heaven. Apart from that, the reference to “heaven” in the last line of this stanza, is a metaphor. Moreover, from this section, it becomes clear that Annie was not just his helpmate. She was more than that to him.

 

Stanza Thirteen

When the light was extinguished,

She covered me warm,

And she prayed to the angels

To keep me from harm—

To the queen of the angels

To shield me from harm.

Thereafter, in this stanza of ‘For Annie’, the poet says when the light was extinguished, Annie covered him to keep him warm. Here, the “light” seems to be a metaphor for hope. Moreover, the lady prayed to the angels to keep him safe from harm. She also prayed to the “queen of the angels” to shield him from all the evils. After reading this section, it seems as if Annie comforted the poet as his mother. She was always there when he was in pain. Moreover, she prayed for his good health just like a mother does for her child in pain.

 

Stanza Fourteen

And I lie so composedly,

Now, in my bed,

(Knowing her love)

That you fancy me dead—

And I rest so contentedly,

Now in my bed

(With her love at my breast).

That you fancy me dead—

That you shudder to look at me,

Thinking me dead:—

When Annie is beside him, he lies so composedly in his bed that one fancies him to be dead. He can sleep soundly only because of her love. Moreover, the poet reiterates the same idea and says he rests so contentedly that one can think he is not alive. It is possible as she is with him and he has her always in his heart. The last two lines of this stanza contain a resonance of the poet’s idea present in the third stanza.

 

Stanza Fifteen

But my heart it is brighter

Than all of the many

Stars in the sky,

For it sparkles with Annie—

It glows with the light

Of the love of my Annie—

With the thought of the light

Of the eyes of my Annie.

In the last stanza of this poem, the poet says his heart is brighter than the stars shining in the sky. The poet has Annie in his heart. For this reason, his heart is always lit with hope and the shine of Annie’s soul lightens his life. Moreover, the poet says his life glows with the love’s light of his dearest Annie. Her eyes have a distinct kind of radiance. When the poet thinks about her eyes, his thoughts also get enlightened. On this note, Poe concludes his eulogy for his loving Annie.

 

Historical Context

As it is mentioned earlier, Edgar Allan Poe, one of the best 19th century American poets, wrote this poem, ‘For Annie’ for Nancy Locke Heywood whom he called “Annie”. She married Charles B. Richmond. They lived in Lowell, Massachusetts. When Poe was living there, he developed a relationship with Nancy. While he was lecturing in Lowell, the couple invited him to stay with them. During his stay at Lowell’s place, he developed a strong relationship with Nancy Heywood. Moreover, he wrote to her of purchasing a cottage in Westford just to be closer to her. Poe sent a letter on March 23, 1848, to Richmond saying,

I enclose also some other lines “For Annie” — and will you let me know in what manner they impress you? I have sent them to the [Flag of our Union.] … I think the lines “For Annie” (those I now send) much the best I have ever written — but an author can seldom depend on his own estimate of his own works — so I wish to know what my Annie truly thinks of them — also your dear sister and Mr. C.

Later, Nancy Richmond changed her name to Annie after her husband’s death in 1873 in memory of his dearest friend Edgar Allan Poe.

 

Similar Poetry

Here is a list of a few poems that are similar to the themes and subject matter of ‘For Annie’ by Edgar Allan Poe. Readers may refer to the following poems for further reference.

  • Love and Friendship by Emily Brontë – In this poem, Emily Brontë presents a contrast between love and friendship. Like Poe, here Brontë stresses the importance of friendship over love.
  • Lovesong by Ted Hughes – In this poem, Ted Hughes describes a relationship between an unnamed man and woman who are deep in the joys and pains of love.
  • Love in a Life by Robert Browning – In this poem, the speaker is on an endless quest to find his lover within the numerous rooms of their shared home. The major theme of the poem is separation.
  • Love by Carol Ann Duffy – It’s one of the best Carol Ann Duffy poems. In this poem, the poet talks about the importance of love in one’s life.

You can read about 10 Incredible Edgar Allan Poe Poems and Best Love Poems for Her.

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A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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